28.06.2012 - Rio+20

Civil society to play a key role in implementing Rio+20 commitments

At the invitation of the Chinese Delegation, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning, Hans d'Orville, moderated a side event at Rio +20 called "The Importance of Informal Mechanisms beyond Rio – A Commitment from China's civil society." It was organized by the Eco-Forum Global in partnership with UNESCO and took place on the 21st of June.

A distinguished group of panellists spoke during the event, including:

  • Zhang Xinsheng, former Vice-Minister of Education of China and Secretary-General of the Eco-Forum Global in Guiyang, China;
  • Maurice Strong, Former Secretary-General of the Stockholm Summit and the Rio 1992 Earth Summit and the first Executive Director of UNEP;
  • Hengshan Fan, Secretary-General of the Chinese Rio+20 delegation and Director at NDRC;
  • Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of IPCC and Nobel Laureate;
  • Mohan Monasinghe, former Vice-Chair of IPCC;
  • Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary-General of ITU;
  • Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Secretary-General of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI); and
  • representatives of Chinese NGOs, the private and banking sector as well as the youth movement.

Mr. d'Orville asked the participants how civil society engagement had changed over the past 20 years. Maurice Strong replied: "Civil society had an important role 20 years ago. Today the financial crisis is drawing attention away from sustainable development. It is much more difficult for countries today to do what they must do. Many commitments made 20 years ago have simply not been implemented. The role of civil society today is even more important. A new people's movement, making increasing use of the internet and social media needs to come out of this conference. It is the people that make a difference. Rio+20 must give a new momentum to the role of people."

Rajendra Pachauri said: "We need to use science and knowledge to guide our actions. Civil society, research and academia need to reflect together on how sustainable development can be delivered." Mohan Monasinghe emphasized that changing production and consumption patterns is crucial for sustainable development: "Business has to come in on the production side. On the consumption side we need to change behaviours and reflect it in the new set of Sustainable Development Goals. This will require a new value system." Hengshan Fan affirmed that China will "promote active participation of civil society in sustainable development and green transformations."

At the end of a lively debate Hans d'Orville concluded that the crucial question is how to empower civil society so that citizens can become active: "The capacities of civil society need to be strengthened also with the help of the private sector."

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